Saturday, December 03, 2016

MMFF Rejects 2016: Enteng Kabisote 10 and the Abangers

Enteng Kabisote 10: Enteng on Sunset Boulevard

One hundred years of cinema and this is how far we've come, folks. Enteng Kabisote 10 and the Abangers is a film that much more stringently follows its Mad Libs-like formula for the past 7 or so films: Enteng Kabisote, hero of Engkantasya, is living a relatively humdrum, normal life until (insert villain played by respectable character actor) hatches an evil plan to (insert nefarious plan here) based on (insert pop culture reference relevant only to the past two years). Meanwhile he has to deal with (insert random dramatic, domestic situation) with his (children/wife). His wife, by the way, is played by (insert pretty actress here). He then sets out to defeat the villain via (insert a parody of whatever fantasy/super hero movie is popular at the time).

Much has been said about how the film 1) relies on the same old tropes and geriatric jokes 2) is based on an almost trivial domestic conflict that is magnified to ludicrous proportions (complete with April Boy Regino) 3) devolves the character of Enteng from an everyman to a hollow shell of the character he was and how 4) the plot is neither entertaining or engaging, hiding that fact with shiny graphics and special effects. I agree with all those ideas, but during my viewing of Enteng Kabisote 10, I was fascinated by one thing. Enteng Kabisote's staleness is based on the things that makes a movie a movie: its plot, its characters, its basic structure. The film looks like it was made in 2006 because of the way it repeats these ideas. But thanks to its recursiveness, there's a kind of self awareness in the film that drew me in. Interpreting it as a self-critique of what it has become softened the blow a bit. This self awareness may not be intentional, and it doesn't make the film any less bad, but it did keep me going for the next 110 minutes. Now hear me out here, because this is a loopy theory.

(If you don't want to read this, skip to the asterisks.)

The Enteng Kabisote of this movie is not (just) the Enteng of previous films; in my interpretation, in the first half of the film, he is the embodiment of the Enteng Kabisote films as a whole. Previously he was a normal, middle aged guy like everyone else. But now he's a grandpa, his family (representing the things that made Okay Ka Fairy Ko so successful) has mostly left him behind and moved on. he's fighting for relevance in a world that doesn't seem to find him relevant anymore., much like how this film series is struggling to find relevance in a filmic landscape that has moved on from gaudy comedies like his. It's a crude Pinoy Sunset Boulevard in idea and tone without the death and insanity. In fact, most of the first act of the movie feels like a swan song, with the implication that this is the time we will see this hapless hero.

Enteng tries to be hip and relevant again, engaging in ideas grounded in the future (like robotics), but the effect is pretty much like Hillary Clinton telling millennial voters to "Pokemon Go-To-The-Polls": it's all cringey and awkward. And at this point we realize that Enteng, the character, and Enteng, the film series, is in the wrong. After getting into an argument with his son (with the implication that he's out of touch and his son is the one who knows what's best for the child,) he goes on a trip for soul searching.

This level of soul searching is a rarity in the Enteng Kabisote film series with its level of self-contemplation and assessment. Of course all this contemplation is still very shallow, but it's a step forward. He finds allies (The Abangers, obviously a parody of the Marvel super-team) who can help him, which to me symbolized radical ideas of change. Lets keep in mind that these characters were outcasts in Engkantasya because of what they were (paralleling the inability of the Enteng series to accept new ideas and change).

By the time the climax rolls around, Enteng realizes that it is he who has to change to fight his enemies. He transforms to the tune of Awitin Mo, Isasayaw Ko, whose groove brings reminiscences of the 70s, better times when TVJ were at the peak of their popularity. He collaborates with his son and the Abangers instead of antagonizing them. Their number (7 Abangers and 1 son) equals eight... much like the MMFF has eight films. In this moment, Enteng Kabisote the film series is admitting it has lost touch and wants to move forward with the times.

At this point in the climax, the roles change. While Enteng becomes the embodiment of what the Enteng series wants to be, Kwek Kwek, the antagonist, now embodies what the Enteng series has become - and its easy to see the parallels here. He's based on a worn out meme (Tatlong Bibe), his plan for domination is to target kids with mobile gaming (the lowest form of gaming entertainment), and his plan is to use the Abangers' powers for his own ends. The two fight and Enteng wins, of course. We then come to the true tragedy of this movie: everything returns to the status quo. The movie fades once again into irrelevance as the sequel hook makes a promise of more films to come - perhaps in the same mold as this one. Here, the film admits defeat. This is Enteng's "Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup" moment.

That took me too long to write, and it was probably a waste of time. If you've reached this far, congratulations.


There is one remaining question that I haven't tackled in this analysis, and it's the question of "is this movie for kids?" Well, in a way, yes it is. Kids don't know any better, and the movie does throw out a few token moral lessons: listen to your parents, don't use technology too much. But at the same time, it's done with a tone of condescension, as if the movie was looking down on these kids: listen to your parents (because we're older, not necessarily because what we're saying is right); don't use technology too much (even though the person who says this was the one who didn't mind using the app in the first place.) The special effects are the cinematic equivalent of dangling a shiny toy in front of a baby's face. "Look baby, o, it's a toy! Ang ganda di ba? You like Pokemon di ba? O, Pokemon, o!"

Showing Enteng Kabisote to your kid is like feeding them day-old buffet food thrown out of the hotel. The management has scraped off the nastier, moldy parts, but hey, the food looks presentable: the cheese looks cheesy, and the cake icing is as pink as strawberry pie. It cost a lot to make, even though it probably contains a lot of crap. Your kid might get diarrhea, but it'll go away anyway. "At least," you think to yourself, "it's edible."

If you're comfortable with that thought, more power to you.

Friday, December 02, 2016

MMFF Rejects 2016: Super Parental Guardians

A little background before I start. To a lot of people the MMFF has devolved into a running joke; a shallow ploy to milk the hard earned money out of Filipinos every Christmas. After the whole mess last year, things began to change. As part of the new initiative to revitalize the quality of the MMFF, the whole festival was revamped. As such, the kinds of films that would have been included in previous iterations of the festival were rejected. So, in a totally non-scientific manner, I am going to see as many of these rejected films as I can and eventually compare them to the films that made it in.

The Super Parental Guardians is Vice Ganda's latest movie. The plot of this movie is not as silly as last year's Beauty and the Bestie, but the main structure of the plot could have been written as part of a Mad Libs game for what it's worth. 

There's one really glaring thing missing from this movie, and it's the presence of the late director Wenn Deramas. Even though Vice's previous films were silly and absurd to a fault, there was something about the pairing of these two people that made their films work in a B-movie Wong Jing kind of way. Unfortunately, there's little of that here, and Joyce Bernal's direction is capable, but a bit uninspired. The end product finds our characters going through the motions of the same old, same old. It all gets a bit tired by the end.

Vice's particular brand of comedy (and one's preference for it) usually determines how one will receive his movies, but even for fans, this time around the jokes are more miss than hit; there are some really funny moments, but some other jokes really left me by the wayside. The Leila De Lima joke got no laughs from me (and awkward chuckles from the audience) and making jokes about Extrajudicial Killings are in pretty bad taste, whether you are for them or not. Insult comedy walks a very fine line from humor to insensitivity, and the film crossed my personal line a couple of times.

Is this film, as they say, 'for kids?' I don't think so. Now I'm not going to tell anyone how to raise their children. But if I had a young kid/young brother/sister/nephew/niece/relative, I wouldn't let them watch this film. Why?

I'd ask you guys: how did you explain the abortion pun at the start of the film? How did you explain that insulting people is wrong? How did you explain to your daughter or son not to objectify anyone, male or female? How did you explain to them that if there's an emergency, like if someone came up to you with a knife up their back, you should take action and not make jokes out of dialing 911 (or 8888?) How did you explain the fact that making fun of killing people without due process is kinda tasteless?

And I hope you parents DID explain these things, because from experience, parents rarely do explain these things. And if you didn't, well congratulations to you for passively teaching your kids the wrong shit. Of course, maybe the kids didn't know better. Maybe all they got from the film was a noisy, entertaining distraction.

There IS one moral lesson in the film that the movie gets right: when Coco Martin's character tells his friend not to take revenge, and get back at the people who wronged them by legal means instead. That seems like a good thing to teach kids.

Of course, this movie being the movie that it is, completely ignores that notion in its tepid final act, where we get a fight sequence complete with Pokeballs and in-jokes. And its final sequence, that of an exploding train (to Boosan, we're told) really encapsulates the kind of movie Super Parental Guardians is.

A trainwreck.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cinema One Originals: Piding and final thoughts

Piding begins with an (obviously fake) news sequence which sets us up for the rest of the film. The rest of the film is a rumination on that particular topic, and for all its flaws, I found the finished product quite fascinating.

The title is the local name of a real bird, the Calayan Rail, which is confined to a particular part of the Philippines. It had been undiscovered until recently. The rest of the movie builds a fictional narrative around that fact, taking us into the life of a slightly loopy researcher dealing with the loss of a child, a mysterious man who may or may not be his son, and the account of a failed joint Chinese-Filipino moon mission.

Piding delves into the aspect of science in the context of life, with this flightless bird, a genetic aberration to the eyes of the researcher, strutting around, while his own son lies dead. To him its a sign of irrationality in an otherwise rational world, and it tears his mind and beliefs apart. He's searching for his own idealized bird, God's Wrist, a sort of avian messiah - but it proves elusive. It is completely possible that this idealization may not exist at all, and what is rational and irrational may actually be in reverse.

There's also the notion that we, the Filipino people, are also a sort of flightless bird, if we take the space narrative and the idea of the piding side by side. We're held back, flying only on the backs of others, ourselves unable to reach the sky. For all our potential brainpower and talent, we're babies in the scientific community, with a society either unwilling or unable to support us. For someone like myself with a background in science, it affected me personally.

Piding's flaws lie in the fact that that's all there is to it, and a lot of scenes may seem like padding. The whole movie is relatively short at 70 minutes but it could have been done in under an hour. The film's symbolism and themes does help carrying it to the end in this regard. The film's ending, tying together the bird, past, present and future, wraps it all up quite nicely.

p.s. guys, don't capitalize the species name. Binomial nomenclature 101


Cinema One Originals 2016 Overall Thoughts

First of all, congratulations to the winners of the fest.

This has been one of the strangest lineups in Cinema One Originals ever since I started going to the fest a few years ago. Cinema One has never been shy to explore more experimental stuff in the past compared to other festivals (like Cinemalaya, who hasn't done a lot of non-narrative entries) but this year was something special. The results so far have been mixed in my opinion, though the most adventurous entries ranked among my favorites.

Other than I, Daniel Blake, I have been able to watch some of the other entries in the international showcase, although at different venues. All in all it's a very solid international program.

So, some random thoughts.

1. Venues - although I was sad that Resorts World Manila wasn't included in the lineup of theaters for this year's festival, I was happy that Cinematheque Manila was included in this year's participants. The place is literally walking distance from where I live in Manila, so it's a definite plus with regards to accessibility. I hope more Manila cinemas follow in its stead, because other than Cinemalaya Manila doesn't seem to give a crap about these fests (I miss Cinemanila a bit already.)

2. Scheduling - the complete lineup of the festival is quite expansive - 47 entries - and watching them is a formidable challenge. Theoretically, if one sticks to just one location, he or she could watch all the festival films in no time. For the person on the go, students, or people with jobs (around 80% of the intended audience), catching a competition film during weekdays or weekends is a logistical nightmare. I can live with watching less films if it means I can watch all of them. The other alternative would be more venues.

3. The festival pass system - it's modeled after the QCinema pass system, which means you buy a pass, exchange that at the booths nearby, then exchange that for an actual ticket. the festival pass entitles you to more than a 60% discount compared to the regular ticket price. Personally I don't mind the price; the true premium with these passes should be accessibility. I've seen many screenings sold out in a blink (ever tried catching Baka Bukas or 2Cool 2 Be 4Gotten in the latter half of the fest?) so priority access to these screenings would be a definite plus. However, I'm not sure if this kind of system is feasible with mall cinemas, who have their own system for accounting ticket sales.

4. The Documentary category - I'd love to tell you about how, in the strictest definition of the word, the only true documentary in this lineup was Forbidden Memory, but to be honest there isn't any strict definition of documentary anywhere, so in this context 'documentary' could mean almost anything. These documentaries are unlike any I've ever seen in my life. But hey, films like Bodysong are technically documentaries, so what do I know. 

Maybe make an 'experimental' category so that people know what they're getting into? I've personally seen a number of moviegoers go into these kinds of films and feel cheated or fooled because they have a certain concept of what a documentary is. Just a suggestion.

That's about it. Only one local filmfest is left, and that's the reformed MMFF. It looks promising, but we'll see what happens next month! Until then, see you at the movies.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Cinema One Originals: Forbidden Memory, Every Room is a Planet, Malinak Ya Labi

"Remembering is a sorrowful thing," one of the interviewees in Teng Mangansakan's Forbidden Memory declares. And indeed, this oral history surrounding the events of the 1974 Malisbong Massacre is a hard watch. But these are memories that should not be forgotten, in light of recent events. In a way, this film is a service, a gift for future generations, a warning to all that this must not happen again.

Its truths ring more true than any fake news site peddling lies and bullshit, as it comes directly from the mouths of the survivors of the massacre - part of an oppressive string of military operations that destroyed many innocent lives.

The stories are heartwrenching, and many say that they would never have told these stories otherwise. Yet their stories are only a small part of the deaths, rapes and incidents of torture that happened during that time. These events created towns of widows and orphans, with many not knowing to this day where their loved ones are buried.

Haunting are the pictures of the people, taken by an American who observed the beginnings of the operation, showing the townspeople rounded up in the tens, maybe hundreds, before the carnage. And disturbing is the coda to the film, showing a nation that has already forgotten this forbidden memory, choosing instead to forget and glorify a dictator as a hero.

Perhaps even more tragic is that Malisbong is only one of many atrocities committed against the Moro people during the Martial Law era. I would not be surprised if many people, enraged by these atrocities, went on to rebel against the government, a consequence of Marcos' all out war.

To forget these memories is to sanitize history. To forget is to deny the truth. And the denial of truth - almost nothing is as heinous. But nothing will ever erase this bloody stain in our history - just as, even now, shadows of bloody palm prints still exist in the mosque in Malisbong.

Every Room is a Planet is quite the strange experience. On paper it's a love story about a guy, his mentally unstable sister in law, and everything else around them. But on screen is a different story. The visual presentation of the film is mesmerizing. The film takes its title literally, with every room delineated by its own unique visuals - the outside being monochrome, a therapist's office awash with reds, and a personal space bathed in a warm instagram-like filter. Doors open and close with the sound of a science fiction airlock.

It all takes a while getting used to, and the film as a whole does takes its time getting to the meat of the story, easing us towards the revelations near the middle of the film. It keeps us deliberately in the dark regarding the missing brother in law, and whether the woman's psychoses are real or not. At times it descends into tedium, and it can get clunky or boring in places.

But when things get going, they get very strange, in a very good way. The presentation is fresh and interesting, although thanks to that same presentation style, it doesn't always work out. The strangeness hinges with Valeen Montenegro's performance, whose psyche unfolds in a nuanced manner, her quirks and instability rubbing off on Rap Fernandez's character.

This is honestly a hard film to pin down. It treads the line of experimental stuff, but not too much as to become frustrating. I recommend a watch, especially to those who have seen Javier's previous work and want to see an evolution in style.

And finally, we have Malinak Ya Labi (Silent Night), a regional feature from Pangasinan. The story tells itself in segments that proceed in reverse (the first scene is actually the last chronological scene in the film) ala Memento, and its premise, that of ritual sacrifice and a string of murders, seems tantalizing.

However, the film suffers from one really glaring sin: it is too preoccupied with being showy and gimmicky in its presentation. We don't just get a drone shot, we get a gratuitous drone shot that seems unnecessary. We don't just get slow motion, we get an entire sequence (minutes long) in slow motion that becomes tedious. The reverse narrative becomes frustrating, existing only for the sake of its gimmick, robbing the film of its form until more than halfway through. At times the editing becomes awkward, and some scenes don't really work because of this.

It's a shame, since the movie seems to talk about interesting issues: it talks about the dirty little secrets people keep even in small communities. It talks about how those in power are no less trustworthy than your neighbor (maybe even less so.) It talks about things about society we'd rather not talk about. It talks about tradition and sacrifice, about how our most vulnerable are susceptible to the whims of the deceitful. But the message is lost in the delivery.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Cinema One Originals: Dayang Asu, Tisay, Lily, People Power Bombshell

It's a dark, dark world in Bor Ocampo's Dayang Asu, where corruption seeps from every corner. The film does have a loose plot, but it's more concerned with immersing us into this world. Nobody is completely innocent in this grimy milieu: there are only victims and victimizers. And the victims, unless they fight back, they get fucked real hard.

And yet the scariest thing about it is that these things happen in real life (Remember Jalosjos?) This is closer to reality than it is a parallel universe.

Given that most of the 'protagonists' aren't exactly saints, it's hard to sympathize with any of them. But that becomes the point of the movie. When survival becomes the only option, you have to become the monsters you despise - otherwise you become another corpse on the road.

The film's questions linger with you. It doesn't really explain why these people are acting this way, only that this world exists. It leaves you to ponder how it all ended up like this, if it's a fucked up quirk of human nature and we're all doomed to walk the same paths.

The film relies on an ensemble cast, and special mention goes to Ricky Davao, who goes from his usual recent lovable dad roles to a twisted perversion of that same role. Junjun Quintana, who had a really good acting year in 2015, is good, but he's relegated to the sidelines until the very last act of the film.

The film is relentlessly heavy, exhausting even. Even a few moments of levity may not be sufficient to keep you from drowning in its darkness. But to those with the stomach to dive its depths, Dayang Asu asks very relevant questions about the justness of our society as a whole.

No poster, enjoy a Nathalie Hart pic instead.
Tisay, Borgy Torre's latest directorial effort, is filled to the brim with technical polish: crisp, beautiful visuals, a great soundtrack, decent acting from everyone involved. Its titular character (Nathalie Hart, a.k.a. Princess Snell) is a streetwise bookie making her way through the world. She's ready to use whatever is necessary to get what she wants. It's always been a selfish game for her, but her encounter with a up and coming semi pro basketball player tips that game ever so slightly off balance.

The film generates a decent amount of tension as the parties involved get into a dangerous and deadly game worth hundreds of thousands of pesos. This is Nathalie Hart's first major role and she delivers for what it's worth, oozing a bit of sex appeal and edge at the same time.

However, the film does have flaws. it is built upon an awkward romance that isn't developed  as well as it should be, preferring to dive in headfirst into its main story after only a few minutes of the two characters meeting together and bonding, and that really drags down the rest of the film. There's a lot of violence in the movie, both sexual and otherwise, and at times it crosses the line into ridiculous territory. After the nth time someone gets raped or maimed, it becomes distracting.

Like the previous film in this post, Tisay is a film about surviving in a shitty world. The entertainment value mainly stems from the question of whether or not Tisay is finally doing something for someone else for a change, or if she's still the same person from the beginning of the film. Tisay may not have hit the buzzer beater, but it still manages to score points in overtime for a close win.

Lily is not really a horror film, and leaving this preconception by the door enhanced my appreciation of the movie. It's more of a revenge flick with supernatural elements, presented with a uniquely regional flavor.

It's based on an urban legend, used by numerous mothers and yayas in the Visayas in the past to justify why little kids should go home early. The film is non linear, taking us on two different narratives: in the 90's, Manuel discovers a strange woman in the forest. In the 2000's, we see him with a different woman, with Lily hot on his tail, a bloody swath of bodies in her wake. Pieceing together the fractured plot and figuring out a) why Manuel and Lily separated b) why Lily has a gash across her face and c) if Lily really is a supernatural creature or just a revenge-obsessed woman is half the fun. But even then, the film throws in all sorts of curveballs, where in the end none of the narrators may be reliable, their truths hidden under drug induced trances or lies.

Some of the film's regional contexts may be lost on a non Cebuano viewer. Luckily the S.O. is from Cebu, who filled me in regarding these smaller details. Some of the references (like casting Porto, a character in Cebuano TV,) are tongue in cheek, while others (the sigbin, a chupacabra like creature that feeds on blood and charcoal) are closer to home.

Its visual presentation is quite interesting as well, with a bit of a punk sensibility to it. There are some points in the movie, however, whose presentation seemed to either be a bit too rushed or too stylized, such as the end of the film. Lily is an interesting flick, best viewed with no preconceptions. It represents the variety regional cinema can bring us that capital-centric films simply do not have.

Speaking of preconceptions, I came into People Power Bombshell: the Diary of Vietnam Rose thinking it was a documentary. In reality, it is more of an anti-documentary in experimental form, where reality, fiction and metafiction meld into a strange metahistorical experience.

The film is mostly formless, but it follows Liz Alindogan's thoughts as she tries to complete the (ultimately incomplete, IIRC) shooting of Celso Ad Castillo's The Diary of Vietnam Rose.

Within its anti narrative I saw postcolonial western influences on our cinema and a struggle for relevancy and identity in an age where irrelevance and homogenization threaten society. It reflects itself on its frames, designed to look like they came from old or ruined film stock, also a characterization of our collective fading memory and grip reality.

That's just my take on it, since with these experimental flicks you get only what you can take.

The film does have a few technical issues, such as some frames where it seems like the effects layer was not dragged over the entire frame. Otherwise it looks like the filmmaker got his desired effect.

People Power Bombshell may prove a challenging, even frustrating watch. It requires a certain knowledge of the history presented, which I admittedly am not completely aware of. But, like with all pieces of abstract art, people can find beauty in it. Your mileage may vary.

note: made a small edit at the end of this post.
note 2: made an edit at the Lily post, sabay pinagalitan ako kasi hindi daw ako nakikinig ng mabuti. hehe

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Cinema One Originals: I, Daniel Blake, Shorts Program

I, Daniel Blake ends with a heartfelt, heartbreaking declaration of humanity in a world that is quickly losing it. Its titular character is an elderly carpenter who has recently recovered from a heart attack. He's not yet fit for work, but due to circumstances beyond his control, he's deemed fit for work by the state, rendering him unable to collect unemployment benefits. He then sets out to reinstate those benefits, pitting him against the most formidable, obstinate foe anyone has ever faced: the bureaucracy of a national government.

Welfare systems should be designed to make the process easy for people to get the things they need, but instead the opposite is true. The humanity of these systems has been removed, turning the system into something aimed to frustrate people and wear them down, chipping away at them like a wood chipper. Sometimes the system works but it's horribly bogged down. More often than not, good people are left on the streets.

Daniel faces this challenge with his head up high, even though things grow even more desperate for him and the people around him. As a widower, he faces this battle mostly alone, and throughout the film he does not seek pity or charity. His struggle to keep his dignity is the cornerstone of the film, his principles based on a background of carpentry - when something is wrong, all you have to do is fix it. It's seen in Daniel's motif - a fish - whose only wish is to swim free and unabated. I, Daniel Blake is social realism at its finest - where society's ills are exposed through a single beacon of humanity.


We Want Short Shorts Short Cinema One 2016 Shorts Reviews

Maria, a short about a family of 22 welcoming their latest child, is relevant, and sounds ridiculous at first when you realize these things do happen in real life. Then the context gets disturbing. Life and death in 10-15 minutes.

Yes Mami's premise is simple, comedic but also very relevant in today's society. If someone wants more progressive roles in performance arts and media, why not, coconut?

Outside is visually cute, and its premise resembles one of the entries in the omnibus film Tokyo! but it puts its own Filipino millennial spin to it. The film is quite nice, though it drags a bit at points. Props to the main actress for making it work.

Buang Bulawan is fairly entertaining, but it shoves a lot of context near the end for the sake of character development. I don't know if the film could have worked as a longer feature (probably not), but we could have developed the relationship between its two antagonists in a different way, instead of relying on flashbacks.

Lope was part of Anatomiya ng Pag-Ibig. It's weird, but it talks about interesting things about the gap between generations and love and hidden pain.

Paano Nangyari ang Hindi Nangyari is even more relevant today ever since we were legally permitted to bury garbage in the Republic Memorial Cemetery yesterday. The aural parallel at the end was a genius move.

Hasa did nothing for me. It has a lot of backstory in the synopsis that isn't in the actual film, and could not be figured out through subtext.

Sandra is like Pepe Diokno's Kapatiran but for girls. It's extremely weird but I found myself liking it for some reason.

Papang is very short and straightforward, establishing a story in 3 minutes that other shorts could not do in 15. The picture quality is not the best.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Cinema One Originals: Nagalit ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi, 2 Cool 2 Be Forgotten

Yesterday I was able to attend a special screening of the restored version of Nagalit ang Buwan sa Haba ng Gabi. It's an immensely enjoyable film with a lot of memorable lines, even though it strays into melodrama in some parts.

Mistress movies aren't a new thing - they've been around at least since the Golden Age of Philippine Cinema, where moviegoers waited for the inevitable confrontation between wife and querida. Even back in 1983, Danny Zialcita was taking the genre to insane limits with this movie.

The film involves your seemingly standard love polygon - Delza (Laurice Guillen), the long suffering wife, Stella (Gloria Diaz), the mistress, and Miguel (Dindo Antonio), the adulterous husband. Put in a few more vertices in that love polygon, such as gay spouse Dimitri (Eddie Garcia) and Delza's former suitor (Tommy Abuel), and a couple of other characters that would constitute a major spoiler - and you have a major entertaining clusterfuck of epic proportions.

The film thrives because of its many moments of levity and wit - the film knows its audience, it knows what kind of film it is and it runs with it. It fills itself to the brim with twists and ideas that it almost reaches the territory of camp, but in my opinion avoids this pitfall thanks to the dialogue.

In many mistress movies, the man is often the source of all the film's problems. And in fact, most of the film's major male characters are terrible persons. They walk through the film without a shred of loyalty, and their affections are as capricious as a bee flitting from flower to flower. In its treatment, it's almost as if the film mocks this idea of machismo, where the men are automatically free from consequence. There's one exchange of dialogue forgiving men cheating and having bastards because they're men, while indicting women for the same crimes. I don't know how feminism stood in the Philippines in the early eighties, but the incredulity in the audience reaction (and the fact that it's still quite relevant in today's largely patriarchal society) is telling.

On the other hand, the females try to conform to societal norms and be dutiful wives and mothers, even though the circumstances dictated by the men grow even more insane. They try to keep the family together and place themselves above their men and their animalistic passions, insisting that they are civilized - they are above all that shit. But even then, they live in a gilded cage.

The film is technically sound, with some clever tracking shots and blocking. The acting is decent to good all around, and you can tell everyone enjoys playing their characters. The film does get bogged down in melodrama and it telegraphs its punches more often than not. But it does throw in a left hook from nowhere that forces you to rethink the context of the entire movie.

It's a pretty fun movie to watch, and I recommend you catch it when it comes out (again) on cinemas or DVD.

Time for one of the competition films. At first glance, 2 Cool 2 Be Forgotten seems like a simple expansion of Petersen Vargas' short film Lisyun qng Geografia. But the film takes us into far deeper places, creating a fully realized, visually impressive experience.

The film recontextualizes the allegories seen in Jason Laxamana's Mercury is Mine into what is basically a high school youth film with darker undertones. It parallels our complicated relationship with the United States and our fascination with American culture, even though the Americans have long abandoned their bases. Our main character, Felix (Khalil Ramos) is a schoolboy whose life is changed when two Fil-Am brothers enter the school. He is immediately fascinated by the older brother, Magnus, who seeks help with homework. On the other hand, the younger brother, Maxim, is more or less a psychopath, and he has much darker plans in store for his family.

It's important to remember the setting of the movie: it's the nineties, and the United States has just withdrawn its military presence in the aftermath of the Mount Pinatubo eruption. Magnus and Maxim represent two different possibilities of this withdrawal - the former, a peaceful, mutual coexistence, the latter, a violent severing of ties. Felix, on the other hand, writes in his journal with a bit of smug naivete - his fixation on the brothers proves to be his undoing. (He also has the worst timing ever.)

On the other side of the coin, many characters exploit the two brothers physically, even sexually, which only reflects how we exploited the Americans for our own needs, a strange kind of mutual parasitism where both parties harm each other for our own benefit. Even after the Americans have left (perhaps, as suggested in one of the scenes, due to divine providence), they took something away from us, leaving us nursing a phantom pain.

The filmmaking behind the film is actually nothing short of amazing, even more impressive considering this is Vargas' first feature length. Each frame is carefully crafted, each frame tells its own story behind the story. Vargas' visual style expands the visual ideas he expanded in Lisyun, making his characters only truly comfortable with each other, where otherwise they are desolate and incomplete.

2 Cool 2 Be Forgotten is an impressive first effort. I look forward to future projects from the burgeoning Kapampangan film movement, which is quickly proving itself to be a force to be reckoned with in regional cinema.